Unity in Diversity: Electronic Patient Record Use in Multidisciplinary Practice

Eivor Oborn, Michael Barrett, Elizabeth Davidson

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In this paper we examine the use of electronic patient records (EPR) by clinical specialists in their development of multidisciplinary care for diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. We develop a practice theory lens to investigate EPR use across multidisciplinary team practice. Our findings suggest that there are oppositional tendencies towards diversity in EPR use and unity which emerges across multidisciplinary work, and this influences the outcomes of EPR use. The value of this perspective is illustrated through the analysis of a year-long, longitudinal case study of a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, and nurse specialists adopting a new EPR. Each group adapted their use of the EPR to their diverse specialist practices, but they nonetheless orientated their use of the EPR to each others’ practices sufficiently to support unity in multidisciplinary teamwork. Multidisciplinary practice elements were also reconfigured in an episode of explicit negotiations, resulting in significant changes in EPR use within team meetings. Our study contributes to the growing literature that questions the feasibility and necessity of achieving high levels of standardized, uniform health information technology use in healthcare.
Original languageEnglish
Article number22(3)
Pages (from-to)547-564
Number of pages17
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • multidisciplinary, practice theory, electronic patient record, unity, IT adoption, information systems and organizational change, case study, longitudinal research, diversity

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